Ombudsman hails NGO scrutiny of EU institutions

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Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a key role to play in uncovering maladministration in the EU institutions, the European Ombudsman has underlined.

“The Ombudsman relies on complaints from NGOs to help him uncover possible instances of maladministration in the EU institutions,” said European Ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros. 

Diamandouros was commenting following his December decisions on two complaints lodged by Polish environmental NGOs and Greenpeace.

“The institutions, in turn, profit from the active involvement of NGOs to help them rectify problems in the system,” he added. 

Polish NGOs Towarzystwo na rzecz Ziemi (TNZ) and Polska Zielona Siec (Polish Green Network) claimed that the European Investment Bank (EIB) failed to comply with an EU directive on environmental impact assessment during flood reconstruction and repair work in the country in 2001 and accused the EIB of failing to provide them with access to all the documents related to these projects. 

In his decision on the case, the Ombudsman highlighted the “valuable role” played by the NGOs in bringing previously unnoticed issues to the EIB’s attention, and urged the institution to “engage constructively with NGOs” within and outside the EU in future. 

Meanwhile, Greenpeace highlighted four cases of “revolving doors” between European Commission officials working on the REACH regulation and lobby groups representing the chemical industry and accused the EU executive of impropriety. Following a Commission spokesperson’s comment that the accusations were “unfounded and unfair”, Greenpeace accused the EU executive of making “misleading, inaccurate and slanderous” remarks. 

Diamandouros did not believe the spokesperson’s remarks amounted to maladministration, but underlined that the case highlighted the “importance of transparency in relation to lobbying activities during EU legislative procedures”. 

NGOs have made around one thousand complaints to the Ombudsman over the last decade. These complaints of alleged maladministration by the EU institutions mainly concern environmental projects, late payment for contracts granted by the EU, and a perceived lack on transparency in the institutions. 

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